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  • Some languages have freakishly long words.

  • Hawaiian drivers licenses have literally chopped off people's... names.

  • One ancient comedian spelled out this mystery meat dish.

  • And German words can get so hefty that even when they lost their longest one in 2013 it

  • hardly left a dent.

  • So what's going on in these words, and just how long can a word get?

  • A couple years ago, I was living the life.

  • Chained to a desk ten hours a day, working weekends, taking lunch breaks to go snorkel

  • with turtles in the reef!

  • Oh, did I not mention I was chained to a desk in Hawaii?

  • So I had a good swim and I'm walking back.

  • I must have zoned out on the scenery, singing with the birds or something because somewhere

  • I took a wrong turn.

  • And now I am face to face with the street sign that never quits.

  • Seriously, those letters went on forever!

  • If you're a normal human in this situation, you know you're lost, you turn around and

  • you walk the other way.

  • But language nerds?

  • We drop our ice cream and sit there mesmerized by phonemes.

  • Auwe, you think a lone male goes wandering the streets licking an ice-cream cone?

  • That is creepy.

  • Nah, we eat shave ice.

  • The kicker though is if you pop open a Hawaiian dictionary you won't find these forever words.

  • In fact, most terms will look downright short.

  • So where are the extra letters coming from?

  • Hang out with me long enough and you'll hear about Pacific Island taboos.

  • In Hawaii, the word is "kapu".

  • Oh, and there are some intriguing kapu stories, but that's for later.

  • So keep "kapu" but now go and grab the sounds "ho'o", which my grammar book calls a causative.

  • Smash that onto "kapu" and you'll get "ho'okapu", maybe make something holy or cause to be taboo.

  • But these affixes only buy us a few characters and they give me grammatical headaches, so

  • no big wins here.

  • Besides, most Hawaiian grammar is done with separate little words called particles.

  • And if you thought dissecting word-beasts was a pain, here's your chance to tame a bunch

  • of little scurrying word insects!

  • So beautiful though.

  • What's better than taking your base word and growing it by sticking on some appendages?

  • Adding another base word!

  • This is called compounding, and it'll earn you some serious extra letters.

  • Watcha got?

  • Got a brain?

  • How about a lightning brain!

  • Dung?

  • Here's some Pele dung!

  • Triggerfish?

  • Why not a blunt-pig-snout-triggerfish!

  • Humuhumunukunukuāpua'a.

  • Impressive word-building, Hawai'i.

  • So then, is Hawaii home to the longest word ever?

  • It is

  • not.

  • What about German or Greek from earlier?

  • Same strategy: compound, compound, compound...

  • No record-breakers there either, unfortunately.

  • The award goes to... drummrrrolllll....

  • A master-compounder-extraordinaire, a 16th-century writer,

  • Tirumalāmbā.

  • She used compounding in her Sanskrit masterwork in which there is an entire chapter devoted

  • to basically just saying, "So this guy passed through a part of Tamil Nadu."

  • But she gushed over that region, I mean she really laid it on thick.

  • One (just one!) of the litany of flowery Sanskrit words she used to describe the place contains

  • dozens and dozens of compounds.

  • And that is how a Sanskrit compound made the Guiness World Records for longest word.

  • Are we having a moment here?

  • Is that thought crossing your mind too, like, theoretically couldn't we just keep adding

  • and adding hyphenated compounds infinitely?

  • Welp, you're right!

  • Kind of unfair then, huh?

  • If that's how we're playing this, fine.

  • It's a hyphenated verbal arms race.

  • The thing about words like these is they don't really get used.

  • Truth is, even with compounding, Hawaiian and German and even Sanskrit aren't winning

  • any average word length awards.

  • Around the world, languages where people actually use long words in nearly every single sentence?

  • Oh, they build words very differently.

  • I should come back to that sometime.

  • Stick around and subscribe for language!

Some languages have freakishly long words.

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B1 US sanskrit hawaiian compound longest hawaii dung

The Longest Word in Any Language

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    Mike NiKao-Kusata posted on 2017/06/25
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